This Sunday the people of Haiti will go to the poll to elect a new president for the next five years. In all likelihood and barring an unexpected surprise Michel Joseph Martelly, 50, will be Haiti’s 56th president when the results are made public 1 or 2 weeks after the March 20 election. Unbelievable as that may appear, the Haitian people in their search for this new society will have – paradoxically – turned to their former tormentors (and a few others) to lead them out of their abject poverty. Indeed, behind Martelly’s Repons Peyizan (Ah, only in Haiti) congregate various hardcore members of the despised Duvalier regime. History rarely repeats itself, but this time it’s really close and certainly not a caricature.
It’s not the time now, as the politically reactionary winds are about to engulf Haiti, to explain why the people of Haiti seem to look to the extreme right to find solutions to their two-centuries old problems. Suffice it to say that, among other factors, Aristide’ and Preval’s failed public policies in the economic and social realms, and the opposition’s nefarious antics, may have nudged the people in the arms of Michel Martelly and his henchmen lurking in the background. The greater picture is that as welcome a Michel Martelly’s defeat may be the alternative is also a politician of Haiti’s soft right. How times have changed in Haiti? At least Mirlande Manigat’s political trajectory is nuanced by years of struggle again the Duvalier regimes. On the other hand, Michel Martelly’s baptism by fire in the crucible of Haiti’s fascist politics was cemented in FRAPH’s bloodied ranks during the early 90’s.
A word or two about this illegitimate alliance made in hell.
Michel Martelly’s presidential (yes, you heard it right) bid has had a fruitful start and major boost at the inaugural campaign event in Haiti’s second most populous city Cap-Haitien where the candidate was joined by arguably the most powerful and respected leader of the Haitian Catholic church Msgr. Louis Kebreau. It was then an important barometer of where things were headed for Mirlande Manigat. This is what Msgr. Kebreau did for Michel Martelly and no amount of technology could have bought for him: instant legitimacy for someone not fit to ascend to the presidential throne.
I have recently held the view that the power of ideology in Haiti’s muddled politics has receded to the point that it may cease to be a reference point to understand the actors’ political calculus. How wrong was I? Indeed, there is no other way to explain Msgr. Kebreau’s “open support” for Michel Martelly: The Catholic church, having been on the sidelines for most of the last two decades, may have seen in Martelly a golden opportunity to reclaim its lost political space. The hard secular right and the soft religious right are now joined at the hip.
The new leader of the Catholic Church in Port au Prince Msgr. Guy Poulard, a card-carrying member of Haiti’s religious right and sensing that Msgr. Kebreau went too far, had to go public to say that the Catholic church has no candidates in this race. Too late: this unholy alliance of the cross and the drum must be denounced on the premise that it bodes ill for the present and future of Haiti. Still, it’s surprising that, unlike Michelle Pierre Louis case, “no one” has come forward to denounce Michel Martelly as morally unfit (and everything else) to occupy the highest office of the land. These “immoral” allegations were brought against Michelle Pierre Louis simply because of her illustrious standing within Haiti’s progressive circles. Martelly, however his glaring faults, is our own, seemed to say his right wing supporters.
A few folks throw their support for Martelly because of their aversion for the traditional political class. Fine, but this stand doesn’t jibe with the overt presence within the Martelly camp of some of the worst political characters in Haiti. I don’t pretend to know how Martelly – if elected – will govern Haiti. I know this: Expect corruption and debauchery at a level unseen during the last twenty five years.
I hope the people of Haiti prove me wrong this Sunday.
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